48 Hours in Dubai
Indulge in an unlimited champagne brunch, watch the sun set from the world's tallest building and eat dinner in an underwater restaurant - here's how we'd spend two days in Dubai...
Dubai International Airport is 4km outside the city centre, and can be reached by taxi, bus and Metro. The Metro is the cheapest option and stops at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. However, taxis are also relatively inexpensive (around £10, each way) and are available around the clock.
Start your day with a champagne brunch. It doesn’t come cheap, but it’s a Dubai institution, a treat and experience in its own right. Many of the hotels offer lavish feasts lasting several hours, with unlimited champagne throughout. Usually set up as a huge buffet, the food is premium quality and includes treats such as lobster, wagyu beef, sushi and chocolate fountains. Expect to pay around £60-£100 per head – 25% less if you don’t drink alcohol.
Dubai’s malls are legendary and while the actual luxury-brand shops won't differ too much from those you might find in Paris or New York, the way in which they entice you will. The Souk Madinat Jumeirah (below), for example, has a series of waterways set up from the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel to its shops and restaurants to prevent weary feet and keep your wallet open. The air-conditioned shops are also the perfect respite from Dubai’s afternoon heat. Block out an afternoon for some retail therapy.
Watch the sun set over the city from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. At 828 metres, it’s nearly three times the size of The Shard in London and home to the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. It takes approximately 30 minutes to queue for the lift during peak times, so plan accordingly when booking your time slot. Tickets are cheaper (from £22/125AED) if you pre-book. Be warned, it’s £71 if you buy tickets for immediate entry.
Some of the top-rated restaurants can be found in the Downtown Dubai and Jumeirah areas, but they come with a price tag to match. You’ll find plenty of variety and, in true Dubai style, flamboyant dining experiences unlike anything else in the world - from seafood restaurant Al Mahara (where you hop in a “submarine” to get to your dining table and get serenaded by a harpist), to the Mediterranean Al Muntaha, 200 metres up in the Burj Al Arab.
Hit the beach in the morning before the temperatures peak. Many of the beaches along the Jumeirah stretch belong to hotels and are only accessible to guests or those happy to pay a hefty day fee. There are also public beaches (some are free, others charge a small entrance fee), which also have good facilities.
If you've brought the family, there's the Wild Wadi Waterpark with its 30 rides and attractions, such as racing slides and wave riders.
Tuck into crisp salads and freshly squeezed juices at the Arabian Tea House in Dubai’s Persian quarter (Al Bastakiya). Set in an early 20th-century wind-tower house on a shady courtyard, it’s a great-value option for a traditional Arabian lunch close to Dubai Creek.
Hop across the creek via a traditional wooden dhow or abra (water taxi) and head for the historic quarters of Al Bastakiya and Deira. The spice, textile and gold souks there are all crammed with shops offering a feast for the eyes and they’re great places to pick up a bargain, particularly if you are prepared to haggle.
There are restaurants serving virtually every national cuisine from around the world in Old Dubai and often at very affordable prices. Pakistani favourite Ravi’s, Thai Kitchen and Cactus Cantina for Mexican dishes are all local favourites and won’t break the bank.